Christmas has come early with the return of Cal softball games, starting Saturday in San Mateo. The grouping of teams should provide varying levels of challenges for the Bears coming out of dormancy and prepare for the spring regular season.
It has been exactly 147 days since the Bears last appeared on the diamond, so this weekend’s set will aim to clean off the rust and get them back into the swing of competitive play. Cal first encounters Cal State East Bay, a pair that’s never crossed paths — until now.
Both teams performed pretty similarly by last season’s end. The Bears finished their spring with a 28-27-1 record compared to the Pioneer’s 24-28 record. On individual performances, however, Cal has CSUEB beat in the major categories of batting average, or AVG, on-base plus slugging, or OPS, hits, home runs and runs batted in, or RBI.
Sarah Fukushima led the Pioneers with a .380 AVG, a 1.060 OPS and 63 hits. She was tied for the team lead in home runs with teammate Madeline Ramirez at five each. Ramirez also tallied the most RBIs with 36 on the season.
In comparison, the Bears’ Makena Smith finished the season strong, leading the team with a .412 AVG, 1.248 OPS and was tied for the team lead in home runs with Sona Halajian — each hitting 13 dingers on the season. The power bat of Halajian also had the most RBIs on the team with 43. Cal’s five-tool shortstop, Tatum Anzaldo, tallied 74 hits throughout the spring, good enough to lead the team and even to tie for second place for most hits in the Pac-12.
Regardless of how these teams performed, fall ball presents a clean slate with the return of familiar faces as well as the introduction of newcomers, including five new cubs.
After facing the Pioneers, the Bears stay in San Mateo to take on the Bulldogs, who dominated the 2022 CCCAA regular season with 44 wins to only four losses. This put them in contention for the state championship for the eighth straight year in a row.
College of San Mateo will be the most challenging matchup of the weekend, especially coming off of its 8-1 win over Sierra College in the finals, a win that earned the program its first title. Not only is playing against CSM a great indicator for the Bears of where their team might be come spring 2023, but also will test Cal’s ability to lock in against such a high-caliber opponent.
On Sunday, the Bears face off against West Valley College, another team that played in the CCCAA tournament last season. The Vikings were 23-17 in the spring, good enough for a playoff berth that lasted one round. Another team unfamiliar to Cal, West Valley College presents an additional challenge for the Bears in an attempt to get their bearings early on in fall ball.
For the final matchup of the weekend, Cal rematches against San Jose State after their last meeting in April. The Bears have a slight edge over the Spartans as SJSU finished with a 22-29 record and lost to Cal 4-1 in seven innings of play last season.
The Bears contributed one of the eight straight losses suffered by the Spartans, powered by Alexis Bishop’s fifth inning grand slam that provided all the offense Cal needed. Solid pitching performances by Annabel Teperson and Anna Reimers shut the door for a combined six strikeouts and two hits allowed in seven innings pitched.
This four-game set is just what the Bears need to get the ball rolling and the blood flowing, allowing them to gauge what they are doing well out of the gate as well as elements to work on. These factors might provide some insight for fans of what the season holds next year.